Local chapter of veteran's motorcycle club goes all in to help military families

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Amanda M. Dick
  • 55th Wing Public Affairs
A veteran finds out he has cancer and his family wonders how to pay for treatment and bills. A mother cares for her special needs child, trying to find the best doctor to help her daughter have a better life. A soldier gets injured in a training exercise in preparation for deployment, ending his military career.

These heartbreaking stories are all connected by hope and the generosity of Bellevue's Chapter of the American Veterans Motorcycle Club.

James Whitmire, 55th Force Support Squadron lodging facility maintenance manager and president of the club's Bellevue Chapter, and Leah Uehling, a case management worker for the 55th Medical Support Squadron, worked together again this year to find military families with hardships the club could help with the money raised during their yearly poker run.

The poker run is an event where participants pay an entry fee and travel along a route picking up five playing cards. At the end, the person with the best hand wins the pot and sometimes normally their winnings.

"Anybody who's got a situation in their life we could step in and help with, that's what we do," Mr. Whitmire said.

The recipients of the club's donations were Lorilei Todd, daughter of 1st Lt. Matthew Todd, and John Weinburgh, a recently disabled Army veteran.

"It's a huge comfort to have people who do good things like this," said 1st Lt. Todd, a 45th Reconnaissance Squadron electronic warfare officer.

Right now the Todd family is awaiting a humanitarian assignment to Texas or the surrounding area. Lorilei has had 15 surgeries, the last by a medical specialist in Dallas, Texas. The next surgery she needs is on her eye to help give her better sight.

"We're still waiting for the Air Force to decide and tell us when and where we're going to move," said Monica Todd, mother of Lorilei. "The surgery is complicated because the doctor is in the South region and we're in this region, and it's very difficult for the insurance to pay. The doctor will not set a date for the next surgery on her eye until we move to the area."

The Todd's are not the only family grateful for the motorcycle club's help.

John Weinburgh said he was as equally grateful for their generosity, especially since his wife quit her job to help take care of him and their children.

Mr. Weinburgh was injured in a training exercise a week before he was set to deploy.

About three years ago the motorcycle club began the poker run to help offset the cost of bills for the family of one of their members who had passed away from cancer, Mr. Whitmire said. The following summer the club decided to make it an annual event, keeping it within the military community and helping those who were suffering from cancer.

Last year was the first year Mr. Whitmire and two club members who work in the Ehrling Bergquist Clinic went to case management for assistance in looking for recipients, according to Ms. Uehling.

Mr. Whitmire said he starts looking for recipients around February and March and the poker run is held the first or second week in May.

The motorcycle club is comprised of military veterans from various branches of service.

The Bellevue Chapter of the motorcycle club also donates toys and a dinner for Christmas to military families in need.

For more information on events Bellevue's Chapter of the American Veterans Motorcycle Club holds in support of Team Offutt, call James Whitmire at 669-1667.